LETTER: Political change must start at the individual level | Opinion

The quote “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson.

Healthy dissent generates innovation and stimulates thought. Dissent requires the principle of free speech, which is enshrined in the US Constitution.

Our nation’s ability to foster and nurture free thought and independent thought is currently under attack. In many ways, hatred and tribalism are easier than empathy and understanding.

The latter is a skill that many members of our community lose. Tribalism or groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when a group of individuals come to a consensus without critical reasoning or evaluating alternatives.

When our elected leaders label dissent as un-American, they are turning their backs on American history and the fundamental principles of free speech. As individuals, we struggle against the gravity of the tribe.

To be an individual, sometimes you will be alone and lost. No struggle is too difficult to experience the freedom of owning yourself. Our elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, are leading us into an era of reprisals and tribalism. It will continue to break the bonds of camaraderie with our friends, family and loved ones.

Change will only begin at the individual level. Do not look up to our national leaders, who have demonstrated that they possess no leadership qualities. Instead, look inside yourself and the role your tribe plays in shaping your identity. Own yourself, otherwise you will be lost.

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